Saul Williams' Reznor-produced album is (optionally) free

Yes! Domino effect! Let's just get that obligatory Radiohead story link out of the way now, because Saul Williams is offering his new, Trent Reznor-produced record for free online on Nov. 1. Williams also gives fans a second option, however: a $5 "artist contribution." Those are the only two prices you can choose, but still, this scheme represents a rare instance of a musician's radical methods matching his radical ideology.

You might remember Williams (also a poet, screenwriter, actor and generally artsy gent) from his gripping political manifesto "List of Demands (Reparation)", which appeared on his eponymous sophomore album in 2004. Now he's dropping a record called The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! on the FADER Label, which is the recording wing of The FADER magazine.

Pre-registration is now ongoing at SaulWilliams.com. An interesting caveat for those looking to get in on this action - the album comes in three formats: 192kbps .mp3s, 320kbps .mp3s, or extra-pristine FLAC files. All versions are completely DRM-free, and come packaged with digital artwork and lyrics. Want the album for free? No problem, but you'll have to settle for those 192kbps files. Those who contribute the optional $5 fee get to choose from the three formats. Clearly, Williams is taking a few cues from those In Rainbows file quality complaints.

The presence of Nine Inch Nails mastermind Reznor behind the soundboard should not seem entirely coincidental - he's already broken from his old record deal with Interscope and decided to release his band's next album as a free agent. The Williams approach could be a preview for future NIN releases.

Here are some thoughts from Williams and Reznor via a press release:

"The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! is the lovechild of Trent and me," Williams said. "The Niggytardust concept sets me free to do more on stage with costume, etc. than one might expect from a regular Saul Williams show. It allows me to put my theatre training to use. I've also thought long and hard about all the discussion surrounding racial epithets etc. and chose this title as a means of furthering the dialogue while also showing how creativity will outlive and outshine hatred of any kind."

"Working on this project was a real pleasure. Saul was interested in breaking boundaries, crossing genres and defying expectations and we learned a great deal from one another in the process," Reznor said. "After my own recent dealings with record labels we decided to release it directly to the fans. There are obvious similarities in how Radiohead just released their new record and the way we've chosen to. After thinking about this way too much, I feel we've improved upon their idea in a few profound ways that benefit the consumer."

Related links:
Saul Williams on MySpace
Saul Williams - "An Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey"
Saul Williams on IMDb

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